Lawrence K. Grossman, who was president of PBS before becoming a controversial head of NBC News, has died. The New York Times reports that Grossman died Friday at his home in Westport, Conn, after suffering from Parkinson’s disease and oral cancer. He was 86.
At PBS, Grossman expanded the influence of the broadcaster’s signature news program “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report,” in part by expanding it from a half-hour to an hour. He also started the “Frontline” documentary series, and in 1981 launched the 13-part series “Vietnam: A Television History.”
“Mr. Grossman, a former advertising executive, transformed PBS over eight years,” The Times reports. “Despite his initial reluctance to spend the required money, PBS became the first broadcast network to deliver its programming by satellite.”
Later as head of NBC News, Grossman “dealt unhappily with budget austerity after it came under General Electric’s ownership,” The Times reports.
He was hired in the early 1980s by NBC Chairman Grant Tinker, who The Times says was not bothered by Grossman’s lack of news experience. Tinker is quoted in the report saying: “We have an awful lot of people who have a lot of experience in news. We are hiring a man in whom we have great faith.”
At NBC Grossman “had some successes, including ‘Today’s’ return as ratings leader among morning news programs and an increased regard for ‘NBC Nightly News,’ which had risen briefly to No. 1 in the ratings in 1987 before falling to third place,” The Times reports. “But after G.E.’s acquisition of RCA, NBC’s parent company, in 1986, Mr. Grossman fell out of favor with his new bosses — Jack Welch, G.E.’s chairman, and Robert C. Wright, NBC’s president, as well as with Tom Brokaw, the anchor of ‘NBC Nightly News.’”